He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
I love this parable. I can just picture it.
Knock knock knock. “Hey, Brittney, get up and get me a sandwich, would you?”
“What the heck are you doing out there? It’s the middle of the night!”
“I need a sandwich.”
“Well go get your own sandwich.”
Knock knock knock. “Brittney? Would you please get me a sandwich?”
“Geez Katie, we’re trying to sleep.”
“I know, but I have to work in the morning, so could you get it for me?”
“Cut it out already and go to bed!”
Knock knock knock. “Brittney? You there?”
“Sheesh, fine! If I get you your lousy sandwich will you just leave me alone already?”
I’m sure God doesn’t get quite that frustrated with our repeated prayers, being perfect and all. But what Jesus says makes a lot of sense. It’s like the proverbial kid getting his mom for chocolate until she finally gives in and buys it for him. Except the things that we are praying for are (hopefully) a little more necessary than candy.
But I guess that’s the key, isn’t it? Jesus talks about the child asking for food he needs, not luxuries he wants. In Matthew’s gospel the Lord’s Prayer says “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.” When we’re really praying right, we’re praying that God’s will be done, not just whatever we think will make us the happiest. After all, if that little boy asked his mom for a drink of water instead of chocolate, don’t you think she would give it to him sooner?
Prayer isn’t like writing to Santa. Sometimes the things we think we want aren’t what’s best for us. But if we pray over and over, “Thy will be done” our prayers will be answered. God’s will will be done.
But what about “Ask and it will be given to you”? What about the annoyed friend? I don’t know. I’ve always had trouble reconciling those two ideas. Maybe I should go ask for understanding! Maybe when Jesus says “Ask and it will be given to you” he doesn’t mean for prayers like, “Lord, please get me out of this situation with a terrible boss.” His plan might be for the terrible boss to make you a better boss someday! Maybe instead it refers to prayers like, “Lord, please give me patience and wisdom when dealing with my terrible boss.” In my experience prayers like that rarely go unanswered, even if you do have to pray them a few times. But that’s just what I kind of think might be the answer to that question. I don’t really know. I recommend going and asking your pastor. And I think I’ll do the same.